Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and Human Values
Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.
Queensborough Community College, CUNY
Chapter 8 Crime and Misbehavior
It is quite likely that people have exhibited poor behavior and misbehavior and even criminal behavior for as long as there have been human communities. It is certain that such behaviors existed before computer technologies. With the increase in human instrumentation - the capacity for action- there has been both the exhibition of such behaviors in new ways and also entirely new sorts of misbehavior and new crimes.
There are many examples of misbehavior or poor etiquette or even violations of something now known as "netiquette". There are also examples of familiar crimes being committed in new ways. One of the most interesting of phenomena are forms of behavior involving computer technologies that evolve from simply bad taste or misconduct and range al the way to criminal acts. Further , there is the exploration or discussion of the morality of those acts that are moving in the public consciousness so that the acts have moved from being considered simply misconduct to criminal acts. The path from bad etiquette to significantly serious enough to warrant being considered as a violation of morality is primarily through the notion of harming others. How harmful and what types of harms will lead to a conclusion that an act is immoral and not just impolite? When enough people think that the harm is substantial enough the political forces often move to make the acts or the new forms of harm criminal acts.
There appears in the minds of some a new attitude towards relating to others in the cyberspace or the cybersphere. What is simply bad behavior and what is criminal? What acts are so violative of basic values and moral sensibilities to be made into criminal acts?
Old crimes with new tools:
New Crimes -the FBI estimates computer losses at up to $10 billion a year.
For more information on the sorts of acts that are or become criminal :
READ: Essay that surveys computer crime:Dr. R. Standler Attorney Specializing in Computer Law
READ:: Cybercrime: A Tutorial from Business Week: February 21, 2000.
Web Spoofing: An Internet Con Game, by Edward W. Felten, Dirk Balfanz, Drew Dean, and Dan S. Wallach
Essay on computer viruses and worms, Dr. R. Standler
READ: Practical hints for users on how to avoid computer crime: Dr. R. Standler,
Essay on how to recognize hoaxes about computer viruses Dr. R. Standler,
The issues here are when does behavior become immoral? Not all criminal behavior is immoral and not all immoral behavior is criminal. With reference to computer technologies based on what considerations would some of the forms of behavior listed above become violations of ethical principles and become considered as not morally correct?
How are people to attempt to control socially undesirable and morally incorrect behavior?
Some behavior is disruptive and some is destructive. How far must it go to become illegal as well?
Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution. email@example.com @copyright 2006 Philip A. Pecorino
Last updated 8-2006 Return to Table of Contents